Make sure to stick with the right kind of surprises.

The holidays are always a challenge for those of us who don't start our Christmas shopping until 6:30 p.m. on December 24. Thankfully, most people can't tell how last-minute a purchase was by the tired look in your eyes or abstract wrapping paper arrangements on the box. When it comes to gifting firearms, however, it's prudent to give some forethought to how exactly you're going to give a gift. After all, very few presents come with the significant legal considerations of a firearm, and a properly gifted weapon is a safe one. 

We thought it would be helpful to outline some of the best practices for gifting a firearm to make sure that your Christmases are safe, comfortable, and properly loaded!

First and foremost, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) encourages you to consider gifting a gift certificate for the firearm that you're planning on giving. Most stores will be able to accommodate this request if you pay in advance. There's also always the option of purchasing store credit for the exact cost of the firearm and attaching all of the relevant information needed to buy it. This way, there's no legal question about who the "original purchaser" of the firearm is, a detail that can save you some paperwork and headaches. 

If you're looking to gift a firearm that you already own, or want to pass down a family heirloom, things can get a little more complicated. It's worth noting that most pre-1898 are covered by antique laws, and therefore, generally exempt. However, as with all things guns, it never hurts to be extra careful. Start by confirming that the gift recipient is legally allowed to own a firearm. Gifting a firearm to someone who is legally prohibited from owning one can have unpleasant legal consequences, and that's one Christmas surprise that you want to avoid. 

Once you've confirmed that you're allowed to gift this firearm, your next steps can vary a bit depending on what state you live in. Several states allow for you to purchase a firearm with the intention of gifting it but require you to transfer it through a licensed firearm retailer. This means that the recipient will need to complete an instant background check in order to get it. However, laws can vary and it's important to check before you purchase anything. For example, Colorado allows you to gift a firearm to an immediate family member as long as you know that they can pass a background check and the firearm is clearly a gift, not an attempt to purchase the gun on their behalf (or a straw purchase, as it's known). The difference may seem subtle, but it can be significant. Each state can have its own specific rules, so it never hurts to check with your local gun store in order to find out your options. 

If you're looking to gift a firearm to someone in a different state, you'll likely have to ship it to a federally licensed retailer. You can legally ship guns through certain common carriers, and you can send long guns through the U.S. Mail service as long as you follow proper protocol. In either case, this will involve declaring that your package contains an unloaded firearm. As with all things, check the laws in the state that you plan to send it to in order to avoid any surprises. 

When in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to your local gun store. The employees there are required to understand the laws that affect gifting firearms, and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action for giving your gift. If nothing else, remember that using the gift certificate method above can save you from having to deal with different gifting laws, and generally makes for the easiest method. 

Did you gift any new firearms or accessories for Christmas? Sound off in the comments!